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Starring Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton, Love Letters is a romantic mystery about a lovely, trusting young woman who suffers from amnesia after her husband’s violent death. During World War II, Roger Morland (Robert Scully) persuades his friend Alan Quinton (Joseph Cotton) to write passionate love letters to Victoria Remington (Jones). Believing that Roger is the author of the letters, she marries him. Roger’s deception sets in motion a dire chain of events that locks Victoria in a world of fear and clouded memories. So begins a tale of intrigue, love and suspense, as Alan returns home in search of Victoria, the woman he loves. Once he finds her, can he risk driving her over the edge with the knowledge of her past life? Nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Actress, this gripping thriller is an unforgettable romance/murder mystery that both touches the heart and teases the mind.
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As Amazon says, this is a manufactured-on-demand product that is stored on a DVD-R disc. It comes in a standard keepcase but includes no booklet or chapter list. It's definitely a "no-frills" presentation. There is no menu and no extras of any kind. When you insert the disc, the movie automatically begins playing with its correct aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Those who were hoping for a high-quality presentation that benefits from a full restoration will be disappointed. I've seen some of the bootleg VHS-to-DVD dubs that have been sold for years over the Internet, and this Universal DVD improves on those--but only by a modest amount. The transfer shows quite a few specs and flecks, and many scenes lack detail and sharpness. In short, this DVD does not look nearly as good as most of the other black-and-white movies from the 1940's in my collection, and I have quite a few. It's obvious that little or no restoration of the film elements was performed. If you happen to have the VHS version or one of those VHS-to-DVD dubs, you might want to hang onto it, even if you buy this DVD, because the audio track has some noticeable distortion beginning at about 10:10 and lasting until roughly 12:30 (another reviewer elsewhere on the Internet observed this same problem with two different copies of the Universal DVD, so I'm confident that my copy is not defective). Fortunately, the dialogue is still fairly intelligible during that rough patch, but it's annoying.
This Vault Series DVD is better than not being able to own and watch the movie at all, but it's a shame Universal didn't put the care and effort into this release that so many other (less worthy!) movies have received. If someone like the Criterion Collection would pick up this title, restore it, and release it, the results would be dramatically better. Compared with Warner Brothers, which has released excellent movies from the 1940's like the wonderful film noir "Out of the Past" on Blu-ray with reference-quality transfers as part of its Archive Collection, this effort from Universal is disappointing. The Universal DVD doesn't even include subtitles--another disappointment.
The star rating above reflects my opinion of the movie (a true classic that is highly rewatchable). The Vault Series DVD from Universal gets at most two or three stars. It's better than nothing, but I hope someday someone will give this movie the loving, respectful treatment on home video that it deserves.
Cotton plays a sensitive, sincere WWII soldier who, while in France, writes love letters on behalf of a shallow, callous fellow soldier. The Cyrano-like gesture brings only torment, madness, and death after the woman falls in love with the latter soldier.
After being wounded in combat, Cotton is sent back to England for the duration of the war. He quickly finds out that the soldier he wrote the letters for was killed shortly after marrying the girl to whom the letters were addressed. At that point, the movie shifts gears into a murder mystery, with the guilt-ridden Cotton attempting to discovery what happened--and what role he played in the events.
While Cotton is a bit stiff in the role of Alan Quinton, he does ably exude a quiet, calm determination to piece together the truth. The ever-radiant Jennifer Jones plays a mysterious woman known only as Singleton, who may or may not be the key to unraveling the mystery.
Highly recommended for fans of an old-fashioned murder myster/love story.
There are no compromises in theme, style or content. The theme is that all lying is evil and dedication to truth enables ordinary people to achieve extraordinary happiness.